By Rep. Dan Ortiz
April 19, 2017
For those following the issues facing our state, it’s no surprise that Alaska’s $2.7 billion budget deficit is the biggest issue. For the last five years, Alaska has had a budget deficit. Those deficits have caused the state to burn through at least $12 billion in savings, and we are quickly running out of savings.
In the previous legislative sessions (2013-2016), the Legislature – led by Republican majorities – was unable to address the issue in any meaningful way other than to continue reducing the budget and kicking the can down the road. Since FY2013, we have reduced the combined capital and operating budget by 44%. Most of the reductions are from the capital budget, but the operating budget has been cut by $1.1 billion. There are currently 2,500 less people working for the state than three years ago, which equates to a 10% decrease in the state workforce.
Other than burning through our savings, which is a concern in itself, and sacrificing Alaskan jobs, what are other “costs” of Alaska’s unresolved fiscal situation? Here are some of the most significant impacts:
This session, I joined the House Majority Coalition – a multi-party majority within the Alaska House of Representatives that formed around the common commitment to establish a sustainable fiscal plan. In other words, we are committed to fixing the problem. The plan is based on four pillars:
With these additional revenues, the deficit would be closed completely in three years. On Saturday, the House voted on the final piece of the plan; we succeeded in what we set out to do. It was not an easy task and it certainly required several tough votes. The most difficult vote was the final step that established the Education Funding Act, which put into place an education income tax. The tax has an effective tax rate of 1.66%, will go into effect in 2019, and the revenue may be used to support our education system.
Our four pillared plan is now in the hands of the Senate. I appreciate everyone’s input in the budget process, and I encourage you to continue to do so, by taking our online survey (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/KP3WL9W), emailing me (Rep.Dan.Ortiz@akleg.gov), or calling my office (907-247-4672). Thank you.
I will also be holding an informational town meeting in Ketchikan on Thursday, April 20th beginning at 6:30 pm at the Ketchikan High School Auditorium.Respectfully,
Representative Dan Ortiz
Received April 17, 2017 - Published April 19, 2017
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